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Updated: March 17 with governor’s announcement

The economic slowdown caused by the novel coronavirus has already started to hit restaurants, gyms and retails stores throughout the Commonwealth, as people stay home to avoid catching and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

According to reports, the continued disruption to business could mean that millions of people could lose their jobs in the coming months.

If you’ve found yourself out of work amid the global pandemic, or you’re curious about the what ifs, we explain below how to get more information and sign up for unemployment benefits in Virginia. If you are eligible, the state will pay between $60 and $378 per week, depending on what you made at your previous job.

Gov. Ralph Northam announced several changes Tuesday that aim to make it easier for people hit by the coronavirus shutdown to get benefits faster, including expanding eligibility to people who are quarantined, had the hours reduced or were temporarily laid off.

First, find out the reason for your dismissal.

According to the Virginia Employment Commission (VEC), the first step is finding out exactly why you were let go. For example, were you part of a layoff? Or did the business close entirely? Certain reasons can result in you having to wait extra weeks for benefits to kick in. The VEC says it’s helpful to have the exact reason on hand when you go to file for your benefits.

Second, go online and file your claim.

This can be done online or over the phone from the VEC Unemployment Insurance Services Website. While you’re there you can also register for work, as there are services that will help in your job hunt.

The VEC recommends reviewing your “monetary determination” closely when filing your claim. That is what the office has as your official wages, and it will be used to determine how much unemployment insurance you can get. If you think the wages listed in the “monetary determination” are inaccurate, call the center to explain. You will likely be asked to fox or mail proof of correct wages, like a W2 or pay stub.

Third, sit tight and wait for your PIN number in the mail.

A few days after you file your application for benefits you will receive a notice in the mail with a six digit personal identification number. This is the number, along with your Social Security Number that will be required when you contact the VEC to inquire about your claim.

Unemployment benefits are claimed on a calendar week basis that begins on Sunday and ends at midnight the following Saturday. Each week you’ll need to continue to meet requirements like reporting all the work you do even if it’s temporary or part time, actively searching for a job and reporting any job refusals among other requirements which can be found here.

Fourth and finally, look for a new job!

While it’s already a requirement through the VEC, they also recommend looking for a full time job like it’s your 9-to-5. Create a schedule, make sure to give yourself time for lunch and time outside and make sure to keep detailed notes about your job hunt. You will need to report on your efforts to find a new job to keep getting unemployment insurance.

And before you go, here are some additional resources.

If certain criteria are met, children whose parents are living on unemployment can receive school breakfast and lunches at a free or reduced cost. You can find more information about qualifications here.

Job seekers filing for unemployment may also apply for a Pell Grant which would pay for job training or related education. Under certain criteria, those who are currently receiving money from their unemployment claim can continue that support while they do their job training. You can find out more information about the program and where to apply here.

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